Thoughts, essays, and writings on Liberty. Written by the heirs of Patrick Henry.

October 31, 2007

Some Thoughts On Iranian Nukes

by Kevin Boyd

After reading Doug’s post on the latest poll about a possible strike on Iran, I would like to give my view on a possible strike plus my thoughts on American-Iranian relations in general.

1) Obviously Iran cannot be allowed to acquire a nuclear weapon. An Iranian nuclear weapon would encourage the Arab states to develop their own bombs, disrupt the fragile military balance in the Middle East, and create a larger risk of nuclear terrorism through either giving the weapon to a terrorist organization like Hamas or Hezbollah and/or destabilization of the Iranian government.

2) Going to war with Iran is not the answer to Iran’s nuclear program. What should be tried is seven-party talks based on the Six-Party Talks that have been used with North Korea (and have been mostly successful). The United States, UK, France, Germany, Russia, the Arab League, and Iran should start having regular meetings to achieve a peaceful resolution to the Iranian nuclear situation.

3) At the end of the day, talk of an American attack on Iran is probably moot because the Israelis will probably strike if they think the Iranians are close to having the bomb. The Israeli nuclear weapons program exists for the same reason why the NATO countries maintained tactical nuclear weapons:* to make up for superior potential enemy conventional numbers. Like the Cold War where the Warsaw Pact outnumbered NATO forces conventionally, the Arab/Islamic states outnumber Israel conventionally. Justifiably, the Israelis will do whatever it takes to maintain this advantage.

4) The Iranians will be key in helping US forces withdraw from Iraq. They have a vested interest in a political solution, like all of Iraq’s neighbors, that will shore up the Iraqi central government and/or stabilize the violence enough so American forces can exit more rapidly. This is an opportunity to engage the Iranians on this issue and possibly open the door to eventual normalization of relations.

5) Mahmoud Ahmadinejad is nothing more than a puppet of the Iranian Ayatollahs and should be seen and treated as such.

*The NATO/Warsaw Pact analogy is not the best, but I only brought it up to illustrate how nuclear deterrence can be used to offset conventional numerical inferiority.

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  • UCrawford

    Kevin,

    1) So if you’re saying that Iran should not be allowed to develop a nuclear weapon, I’m assuming that in the interests of moral consistency you’ll also take the position that the United States has no legitimate claim to maintain their own arsenal for either deterrence or any other purpose? After all, you wouldn’t want to be party to a double standard by which you claim that Middle Eastern countries have no right to defend their national sovereignty because somehow their culture makes them untrustworthy of freedom. Right? As for this hypothetical Middle Eastern arms race you speak of, exactly how many nukes do you think a struggling socialist country with a GDP smaller than our defense budget is going to be capable of producing? Because I’m betting it’s not going to be a lot.

    2) None of those parties you mention has come to a useful or meaningful conclusion on anything of importance in the last ten years. Also, unless they’re promising to give up their nukes too, they have no moral authority to dictate terms to Iran.

    3) It’s wrong for Arabs and Persians to develop the capability use aggressive force against others, but it’s okay for our ally Israel to have that capability and use it against the Arabs and the Persians as long as it suits our needs? Is that what you’re trying to say here? Because that seems like what you just said.

    4) Interesting…in one point you indicate Iran is a threat, in another you advocate essentially turning over Iraq to them. I wonder how the Sunni and Kurds would react to us turning over their country to a foreign power that’s been hostile to them? Or how Jordan, Kuwait and Saudi Arabia would react to us shifting the balance of power in favor of Iran? Not well, I’d imagine.

    5) Ahmadinejad is a puppet…your only valid point in this post. But it’s a point that most pro-interventionists seem to miss so you do deserve credit for catching it.

  • UCrawford

    And did you ever consider that the Iranians would like their own nuclear program because having that capability offsets their own military disadvantage against us should we ever decide to invade them like we have their neighbors to the east and west? Are you actually taking a position that deterrence and national sovereignty are privileges exclusive only to the Israelis or the West, but not to Middle Eastern countries?

  • http://thelibertypapers.org/2005/11/22/a-bit-about-kevin/ js290

    UC,

    you’re arguing with a know-it-all 21 year old from one of the directional Louisiana schools… ;-)

  • http://republicanrenaissance.blogspot.com David M

    1) I find this point really strange. What is the fragile balance you believe should be preserved? It’s interesting to note that where nuclear weapons have been introduced, large-scale wars have disappeared. Pakistan and India have the bomb and that region hasn’t gone up in smoke. So what if Iran gets one and the Saudis try to follow suit? Why are we fretting about that?

    Great debate recently between Podhoretz and Zakaria on this subject. Zakaria runs circles around him in my opinion.

    And from what I’ve read, the hand-off to terrorists argument is suspect. The ‘suitcase nuke’ scenario a la TV shows like 24 appears to be largely fantasy. Dirty bombs are more realistic, but do limited damage.

  • http://dangerouslyidealistic.blogspot.com/ UCrawford

    David,

    Yup, especially since only two countries (the U.S. and the U.S.S.R.) have allegedly been able to create suitcase bombs because of the prohibitive cost and technology requirements, and the bombs were reportedly of suspect quality and reliability. It’s so unlikely that a country with the resource/industrial base of Iran would be able to pull it off that it’s not really even a possibility worthy of mention.

    Great link by the way…Podhoretz accurately came off as nothing more than a senile old hack who’s made bad foreign policy observations since the Reagan administration. Unsurprising that he’s Guiliani’s foreign policy advisor considering that ignorant Foreign Affairs article Rudy wrote. His responses sum up the neo-conservative position perfectly…whenever someone presents evidence that clearly debunks your position interrupt them repeatedly and throw in as many references to Hitler as possible to shut down the debate. What a complete idiot…Zakaria had to to be shaking his head and laughing at that entire exchange. Zakaria and George Will are the only reasons I still have a subscription to Newsweek.

  • Akston

    Point 2 brings up another fairly strong motivation for any nation to develop nuclear weapons. North Korea demonstrated that these weapons are a pretty effective bargaining chip for international tribute, er aid.

    If we want to avoid encouraging nations to develop nuclear weapons, perhaps we should avoid threatening them with military intervention, followed by large payoffs when they succeed in developing them.

  • http://dangerouslyidealistic.blogspot.com/ UCrawford

    Akston,

    Yup…thanks to Bush’s freak-out over North Korea’s failed nuclear test we’re now propping up the regime of Kim Jong-il with energy aid. Not by free trade, mind you, which would actually help the North Korean citizens and possibly bring reform or an end to Kim Jong-il’s government, but by economic aid from our government to Kim Jong-il’s government which will enable him to maintain control of that aid and use it as leverage so he can inflict continued suffering on his people.

    Bush is such a pathetic joke…it’s no wonder that Podhoretz loves him so much. Losers like them seem to gravitate together, I suppose because they validate each others’ idiotic assessments of their own self-worth. They’re probably too deluded to even realize that that Bush allowed himself to be extorted to keep a dictator in power. All he had to do was ignore the test and Kim Jong-il would probably have given up the nuclear program on his own, not because he didn’t want it but because he couldn’t afford it.

    If the Iranians want nukes, let them destroy their socialist economy trying to acquire them. It’ll force regime change more effectively than an invasion or pre-emptive strikes ever could, and at least it would spawn a revolution actually motivated by freedom instead of conquest.

  • uhm

    It looks like our government had a chance to talk to Iran about our concerns but it didn’t want to. Our government helped install an Iraqi government that is allied with Tehran. Our troops are in a proxy war in Iraq between our government’s “islamofascist” allies and Iran. We are in a weakened position in their holy war.

    http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/pages/frontline/showdown/themes/grandbargain.html
    http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/pages/frontline/showdown/view/

  • http://thelibertypapers.org/2005/11/22/a-bit-about-kevin/ Kevin

    Crawford,

    So if you’re saying that Iran should not be allowed to develop a nuclear weapon, I’m assuming that in the interests of moral consistency you’ll also take the position that the United States has no legitimate claim to maintain their own arsenal for either deterrence or any other purpose?

    Ideally and eventually, I would like to see the United States and every other country abolish their nuclear arsenals. However, it will take a negotiated treaty between every country for that happen and it will be a very long time before that happens, if ever.

    Other than that, I reject the moral equivalence argument out of hand for the simple reason that Iran and the United States are not similar regimes morally.

    As for this hypothetical Middle Eastern arms race you speak of, exactly how many nukes do you think a struggling socialist country with a GDP smaller than our defense budget is going to be capable of producing? Because I’m betting it’s not going to be a lot.

    You don’t need a lot in the Middle East. Israel is a one bomb nation. Put a nuke in Tel Aviv and Israel is finished. All you need is one nuke on the Saudi oil fields and Saudi Arabia is done.

    Also, unless they’re promising to give up their nukes too, they have no moral authority to dictate terms to Iran.

    They’re at least reducing their nuclear arsenals. The Iranians may (we don’t know for sure) be trying to acquire nuclear weapons. The four nuclear powers are moving in the right direction, the one wannabe nuclear power is moving in the wrong direction.

    It’s wrong for Arabs and Persians to develop the capability use aggressive force against others, but it’s okay for our ally Israel to have that capability and use it against the Arabs and the Persians as long as it suits our needs?

    Let’s see if I was the Israeli Prime Minister and if I found out that the Iranians who air antisemitic programming on state run TV, call for “Death to Israel”, arms Hezbollah and Hamas who both call for Israel’s destruction, and has constantly opposed a two-state solution to the Palestinian issue were close to developing a nuclear weapon, I would take it out. I would have to believe that the Iranians would use the nuclear weapon themselves or get it to Hezbollah who has the missiles capable of delivering a nuclear warhead. I base this belief on their words and actions against Israel.

    Interesting…in one point you indicate Iran is a threat, in another you advocate essentially turning over Iraq to them. I wonder how the Sunni and Kurds would react to us turning over their country to a foreign power that’s been hostile to them? Or how Jordan, Kuwait and Saudi Arabia would react to us shifting the balance of power in favor of Iran? Not well, I’d imagine.

    All of Iraq’s neighbors will have to be involved in a final political settlement. Perhaps I was not clear enough in my remarks.

    And did you ever consider that the Iranians would like their own nuclear program because having that capability offsets their own military disadvantage against us should we ever decide to invade them like we have their neighbors to the east and west?

    It would be a piss poor deterrence because it would give the Americans more of a reason to invade for starters and the nuclear facilities would simply be destroyed from the air. I do notice that the Iranians have expanded their irregular forces (Basji, Quds Force, et al) since the Iraq invasion so the threat of prolonged guerrilla warfare can be a deterrence itself from invasion.

    Finally, we don’t know if the Iranians are developing a nuclear bomb. They say they’re not, the IAEA, CIA, and other agencies if they are, they’re years off anyway. Right now, this is an intellectual exercise and hopefully diplomacy will work.

  • http://thelibertypapers.org/2005/11/22/a-bit-about-kevin/ Kevin

    David M,

    What is the fragile balance you believe should be preserved?

    Arab/Islamic conventional superiority countered by Israeli nuclear superiority. Of course, as part of any final peace with the Arab world and the Iranians, the Israelis would have to give up their nukes as well.

    And from what I’ve read, the hand-off to terrorists argument is suspect. The ’suitcase nuke’ scenario a la TV shows like 24 appears to be largely fantasy. Dirty bombs are more realistic, but do limited damage.

    You are correct the “suitcase nuke” scenario is garbage. However, nuclear weapons can be from smuggled ballistic missiles on board merchant ships.

  • http://www.orderhotlunch.com Jeff Molby

    It would be a piss poor deterrence because it would give the Americans more of a reason to invade for starters and the nuclear facilities would simply be destroyed from the air.

    The problem is that we’ve already demonstrated that we’re willing to act on a mere perception. Since they are already being perceived as pursuing nuclear weapons, a rational Iran would be trying desperately to finish before they get invaded.

    That is the danger of the aggressive policy this administration has chosen. I hope to hell their judgment has improved in the last few years.

  • http://thelibertypapers.org/2005/11/22/a-bit-about-kevin/ Kevin

    Jeff,

    The problem is that we’ve already demonstrated that we’re willing to act on a mere perception. Since they are already being perceived as pursuing nuclear weapons, a rational Iran would be trying desperately to finish before they get invaded.

    That is the danger of the aggressive policy this administration has chosen. I hope to hell their judgment has improved in the last few years.

    Absolutely correct.

  • http://www.orderhotlunch.com Jeff Molby

    However, nuclear weapons can be from smuggled ballistic missiles on board merchant ships.

    Yes, but that argues for using the navy to set up a large perimeter around our coast rather than patrolling foreign seas.

  • http://www.orderhotlunch.com Jeff Molby

    Kevin, you realize most of us don’t believe their judgment has improved, right? Why would you trust someone with so little credibility to pursue such a risky strategy?

  • http://thelibertypapers.org/2005/11/22/a-bit-about-kevin/ Kevin

    Jeff,

    Why would you trust someone with so little credibility to pursue such a risky strategy?

    Because for better or worse, the current president is still in office until January 20, 2009 so he has to deal with the Iranian nuclear situation.

  • http://www.orderhotlunch.com Jeff Molby

    And if his approach is causing the “Iranian nuclear situation”…?

    This is why he should have been impeached. After a mistake as ghastly as the Iraq war, it is impossible that he still has the respect and trust of rational, thinking men.

  • http://thelibertypapers.org/2005/11/22/a-bit-about-kevin/ Kevin

    And if his approach is causing the “Iranian nuclear situation”…?

    A matter of opinion.

    This is why he should have been impeached. After a mistake as ghastly as the Iraq war, it is impossible that he still has the respect and trust of rational, thinking men.

    Not to get into a big, long and off topic discussion about impeachment; but under the Constitution, making a mistake is not impeachable. The place to punish mistakes is at the ballot box and in 2004, the American people declined to exercise that option.

  • http://www.orderhotlunch.com Jeff Molby

    And if his approach is causing the “Iranian nuclear situation”…?

    A matter of opinion.

    No, it’s an objective matter. It’s just that we plebs don’t have enough information to know the answer.

    That’s just another reason why the notion of a militaristic representative government is so naive. Their aggressive posture puts them in the situation of making dangerous choices on a regular basis, yet virtually all of the information is classified. How then are we expected to reward/punish at the ballot box?

    but under the Constitution, making a mistake is not impeachable.

    You’re right, sorry. Are Presidents subject to recall?

  • UCrawford

    Kevin,

    “I reject the moral equivalence argument out of hand for the simple reason that Iran and the United States are not similar regimes morally.”

    Of course not, we overthrew their government in 1953, installed a brutal dictator and propped up his regime for the next 25 years so we could have access to their oil and a place from which to spy on the Russians. They’ve never done any of that to us. So by that standard we’re far less moral than they are. That’s why they captured our embassy personnel in 1979 and that’s why they’re pursuing nuclear arms, so we can’t do that to them again. Unless of course you’re saying that they have no right to defend themselves because they’re just a bunch of ignorant ragheads who couldn’t possibly be trusted with the freedom to make their own choices and don’t deserve national sovereignty. Which is kind of what you seem to be saying.

    “Ideally and eventually, I would like to see the United States and every other country abolish their nuclear arsenals. However, it will take a negotiated treaty between every country for that happen and it will be a very long time before that happens”

    I’d like superpowers that enable me to fly. Considering that no nuclear power has ever actually disposed of their entire arsenal I think that my wish is about as realistic as yours.

    “I would have to believe that the Iranians would use the nuclear weapon themselves or get it to Hezbollah who has the missiles capable of delivering a nuclear warhead…You don’t need a lot in the Middle East. Israel is a one bomb nation. Put a nuke in Tel Aviv and Israel is finished. All you need is one nuke on the Saudi oil fields and Saudi Arabia is done.”

    Based on what? Your completely unsubstantiated opinion backed by a college education that as far as I’ve noted includes absolutely no technical expertise in nuclear containment protocols, missile payloads, weapons construction or intelligence gathering? Exactly how do you think the Iranians are going to smuggle a nuclear warhead across the Middle East without alerting the Sunni nations, who have every interest in blowing the whistle on them to us? It’s not like you can transport one without attracting interest, the Israelis have one of the most efficient intelligence agencies in the world, and the Iranians are a long fucking way from even building a basic nuclear device, much less a transportable warhead capable of wiping out 7,000,000 people that you can stick on a SCUD. They haven’t even demonstrated a capability of building a WWII caliber A-bomb much less approached a testing phase. And attaching a nuclear payload to a SCUD is a hell of a lot more complex than sticking an explosives package on one…it requires technical expertise that most terrorist groups simply don’t possess. Once a nuke pops up in the hands of Hezbollah, it’s 100% likely that the entire world is going to know where it came from, considering Hezbollah is sponsored by Iran…which means that if it goes off in Israel the Israelis (who possess a significant nuclear arsenal and who aren’t going to be wiped out by one nuke) are going to launch a counterstrike and wipe out Iran. Do you honestly think the Iranians are too fucking stupid to realize this? Not to mention that irradiating Israel with your hypothetical Iranian mega-mega bomb (which, by the way, doesn’t exist) will render the country pretty much uninhabitable to the Palestinians, which negates most of their incentive to use one. Care to explain that, genius? Oh wait, I forgot…Arabs are all stupid and suicidal.

    “Let’s see if I was the Israeli Prime Minister and if I found out that the Iranians who air antisemitic programming on state run TV, call for “Death to Israel”, arms Hezbollah and Hamas who both call for Israel’s destruction, and has constantly opposed a two-state solution to the Palestinian issue were close to developing a nuclear weapon, I would take it out.”

    Let’s see, to turn this around if I was the Iranian Supreme ruler and the United States (who once overthrew my government, put a dictator in charge of my country, and liked to treat the Middle East like it’s their property) was occupying the countries to my east and west and the president of the U.S. kept calling me part of an axis of evil, had attacked one of my neighbors without provocation, and talked about starting military action against me, and imposed trade sanctions even though I hadn’t attacked his country and despite the fact that I supported him in his invasion of Afghanistan, I’d probably consider building a nuclear bomb too to keep him away.

    “All of Iraq’s neighbors will have to be involved in a final political settlement. Perhaps I was not clear enough in my remarks.”

    No, you were clear…your comment was ludicrous because you obviously have no clue what you’re talking about. You’ve proposed that we should withdraw from Iraq and turn them over to their neighbors. Leaving aside the fact that we have no right to turn the authority of a sovereign nation over to another foreign power without their say-so (and Iraq’s been a sovereign nation since 2005), the Iraqi Sunnis won’t accept this because it will entail giving authority to Iran and the Shi’a (who’ve they’ve got a long and bloody history with). The Shi’a won’t accept it because it will entail giving some of their power back to the Sunnis (who they have statutorily disenfranchised from government as payback for Saddam). The Kurds won’t accept it because it will allow the Turks to shut down their separatist insurgencies in Kurdistan and southern Turkey. Your plan has no basis in reality and won’t work and it’s not our place to give authority over the Iraqis over to anyone else anyway.

    “It would be a piss poor deterrence because it would give the Americans more of a reason to invade for starters”

    Because American generals are also stupid and like to send their troops into an area where there’s a high probability of nuclear retaliation…that’s why we invaded Pakistan to chase bin Laden when the Pakistanis let him escape (sarcasm off). You apparently aren’t much of a military historian either. Number of nuclear powers who have been invaded by foreign countries? Zero.

    “..nuclear facilities would simply be destroyed from the air.”

    Wrong.

    http://www.pinr.com/report.php?ac=view_report&report_id=103&language_id=1

    “Finally, we don’t know if the Iranians are developing a nuclear bomb. They say they’re not, the IAEA, CIA, and other agencies if they are, they’re years off anyway. Right now, this is an intellectual exercise and hopefully diplomacy will work.”

    You’re correct on one point, we have no proof that the Iranians are doing anything. As for your diplomacy hopes, that’s not the tactic that the Bush administration is using ( http://www.cnn.com/2007/POLITICS/10/21/cheney.iran.ap/index.html ), nor is it the tactic that Guiliani’s foreign policy “guru” is recommending. In fact, if we have no proof that Iran is posing any kind of nuclear threat at all or that they can even develop the capabilities, why are we jumping all over ourselves to threaten them or negotiate terms with them at all. Fond of caving to implied blackmail, are you?

  • Akston

    If it could be proven that George Bush decided to invade Iraq while he was drunk, would that qualify as a high crime? ;-)

    (Actually, according to this and other resources, “high Crimes and Misdemeanors” can pretty much mean whatever Congress votes it to mean.)

  • UCrawford

    Kevin,

    “Because for better or worse, the current president is still in office until January 20, 2009 so he has to deal with the Iranian nuclear situation.”

    What Iranian nuclear situation? You just admitted they don’t have any nukes, our intel agencies say they won’t have any for years, and nobody’s even suggested they’re planning to launch one of these utterly hypothetical nukes at us. Bush (who, last I checked was only the president of the U.S.) has jack shit to accomplish with Iran. It’s Israel’s, Europe’s and the Middle East’s issue to deal with, not ours.

  • UCrawford

    Jeff,

    “It’s just that we plebs don’t have enough information to know the answer.”

    Believe it or not, you actually do. Most of the important raw data is actually printed in the mainstream press. Our biggest competitor when I worked in intel was CNN…our goal was to get the information out there before they did. The classified stuff is mainly the analysis which, as Bush has made painfully clear throughout his tenure, the White House doesn’t pay any attention to. Most of the data you need to make informed decisions about world events is actually available through unclassified sources.

  • UCrawford

    Kevin,

    By the way, the dipshit at Eaglespeak who was talking about shipborne nukes misconstrued his citation’s author’s argument (which was about North Korean nukes, not Iranian ones)…Carafano stated that ship-borne nukes aren’t a feasible way of attacking an adversary because everybody would know where the attack came from.

    http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2006/07/25/AR2006072500705.html

    Ships are protected by national flags, no country’s going to flag a ship with an Israel-bound nuke on board unless they want to get hit by the Israelis. And nobody’s going to be able to sneak this missile setup onto this ship without the customs officials of that nation (who check the ships their country has flagged) knowing about it. It’s pure fantasy.

  • UCrawford

    And considering how security conscious the Israelis are about their borders, the “scuttling” hypothesis that Carafano came up with isn’t going to fly either…even if the Iranians had a nuke, which they don’t.

  • http://www.orderhotlunch.com Jeff Molby

    Um, wow. I guess that’s that.

    What I want to know, UC, is why the media doesn’t dispel myths that efficiently. Corruption or just an inherent interest in “conflict” stories?

  • UCrawford

    Jeff,

    The media often doesn’t do it because the 24-hour news cycle doesn’t lend itself to analysis (Gary Trudeau recognized it back in the 80s when he coined the term “News McNuggets”), because there’s money to be made in rumor-mongering on hot topics, and because (frankly) there are a lot of journalists who are simply stupid or lazy and enjoy talking out there who enjoy talking out of their ass about subjects upon which they have little to no personal experience or conclusive information and who are all too willing to buy into easy stereotypes based on little more than propaganda or personal bias. It’s irresponsible, it’s destructive and it’s inexcusable, which is why I tend to get very combative towards people who regurgitate that sort of thing, especially when those people are libertarians who should know better than to accept or propose simple solutions to complex problems. Especially when those solutions tend to be extremely statist in nature.

  • http://dangerouslyidealistic.blogspot.com/ UCrawford

    Carl Bernstein actually discussed this today:

    http://news.yahoo.com/s/ap/20071102/ap_en_ce/people_bernstein

  • http://www.larry-Bernard.blogspot.com Larry Bernard

    1) Obviously Iran cannot be allowed to acquire a nuclear weapon. An Iranian nuclear weapon would encourage the Arab states to develop their own bombs, disrupt the fragile military balance in the Middle East, and create a larger risk of nuclear terrorism through either giving the weapon to a terrorist organization like Hamas or Hezbollah and/or destabilization of the Iranian government.
    —————————
    First I want to go onto Kevin’s Point number one which is multiple points. First if we LET Iran develop a Nuclear Bomb, and with the longer range aspects of the Shahab Program their is no real point for them to build missiles that big unless they want nukes. If Iran has Nukes that has some dynamics that could be good, and could be bad.

    The Saudi’s *MAY* ally with the Israeli’s for protection -or- what I would deem as more likely they would have a military build up of their own. and an arms race thats occurring in that manner would not be in anyone’s interests

    as for Hezbollah with Nukes, that would be the least effective way Iran could use nukes.
    ———–
    2) Going to war with Iran is not the answer to Iran’s nuclear program. What should be tried is seven-party talks based on the Six-Party Talks that have been used with North Korea (and have been mostly successful). The United States, UK, France, Germany, Russia, the Arab League, and Iran should start having regular meetings to achieve a peaceful resolution to the Iranian nuclear situation.
    —————
    ATM Russia and China have Iran’s back. they know the US has no leverage that could bring Iran to the table ATM. North Korea is in a very bad way and the US and China both have significant leverage over North Korea and -as bad- as things are in Iran economically right now, they are no where near North Korea bad
    —————–
    3) At the end of the day, talk of an American attack on Iran is probably moot because the Israelis will probably strike if they think the Iranians are close to having the bomb. The Israeli nuclear weapons program exists for the same reason why the NATO countries maintained tactical nuclear weapons:* to make up for superior potential enemy conventional numbers. Like the Cold War where the Warsaw Pact outnumbered NATO forces conventionally, the Arab/Islamic states outnumber Israel conventionally. Justifiably, the Israelis will do whatever it takes to maintain this advantage.
    ————————

    The Iranians already planned for that contingency….. thats why they’ve been helping out the Palestinian Militants. They have helped fuel the current Intifada so Israel would have to think long and hard about doing it JUST from a domestic perspective. Internationally the EU and (lesser extent) US would rape Israel if they tried it. Israel is in a no win situation and if they did set Iran up the bomb it would be very bad for them.
    ——————-
    4) The Iranians will be key in helping US forces withdraw from Iraq. They have a vested interest in a political solution, like all of Iraq’s neighbors, that will shore up the Iraqi central government and/or stabilize the violence enough so American forces can exit more rapidly. This is an opportunity to engage the Iranians on this issue and possibly open the door to eventual normalization of relations.
    ————————–
    Iran, Syria, Saudi Arabia (to a lesser extent) and Turkey all have a vested intrest in Iraq being a weak Rump state. The only neighbors with an Intrest in Iraq not being Crazy

    Jordan
    Kuwait

    Largely because they are SMALL

    Furthermore Syria, and Iran have a vested interest in the US getting a very bloody nose. In turkey I would say allowing the US to get a bloody nose is good politically

    Saudi Arabia Is a bit more of a question mark
    —————–
    5) Mahmoud Ahmadinejad is nothing more than a puppet of the Iranian Ayatollahs and should be seen and treated as such.
    ——————————-

    Well…… YES in the same since Prior to Gorby whomever was the titular President of the Soviet Union was a figure head…….But the Central Committee still puts the figure head into place

  • http://www.larry-Bernard.blogspot.com Larry Bernard

    Crawford:

    the whole Mosadeqq… thing, to be frank, I think he would have been far more pro moscow then Nasser and given Russian history of Invading Iran (and later Afghanistan) that would not have been good for the Iranians

    not saying how we did it was good.. but lots of dirty stuff like that hit both sides of the cold war

  • UCrawford

    Larry,

    Yes, but the Shah’s regime wasn’t good for them either. It was brutal and dictatorial and (most importantly) not their choice…it was ours. It’s not our place to go overthrowing governments simply because we don’t like the choices their people make. It’s not our place to force our will on them because they don’t want to play ball with us. It’s certainly not behavior we would tolerate from them, it’s not something they should have to tolerate from us. And our interventionist policies are what create this huge level of blowback that gets us into so much trouble over there.

    None of your suggestions on the original post are arguments for our intervention in the Middle East in any fashion…if anything they’re examples of why we should withdraw immediately without setting up any alliances, contigencies or plans at all. The Middle East is an unpredictable snakepit and any deals we make will have unforseen repercussions that we will not be able to control. Therefore it needs to be left up to the Iraqis and the nations of that region to decide for themselves, without any interference or influence from us, because they’re the ones in the best position to do so and any decision we make there will ultimately screw that up. This is what Ron Paul is saying.

  • http://www.larry-Bernard.blogspot.com Larry Bernard

    Crawford:

    I am not sure anymore I can say which is better the status quo or the Shah…. and we get into lots of What If’s and counter factual……

    But when Nixon decided to dial back US power in the Gulf the Shah of Iran was a very good thing for our interests and allowed.

    Overthrowing the dictators should be the LAST phase of policy. But in the case we mention No one saw it coming.

    and as for it not being behavior we’d tolerate from them…. We tolerated their Puppet in Syria doing it to Lebanon. and we have tolerated the more anti-Iran shia factions in Iraq getting thrown under the Bus by the Iranian backed factions because our government is not being well governed. We also Tolerated it a whole bunch when the Soviets and Cubans did it during the Carter years (until the Swamp Rabbits came home to roost.. and the Iranians put our boy the shah out to during that time)

    and we also need to talk about the fact the Shah’s regime (due to postive US influence) was FAR better in the 70s then in the 50s, and FAR better then what replaced it

    Now as for my statements of the realities. Just because the situation has been botched now does not mean their was no way to unbotch it. Thats a logical fallacy. As it is fallacious to assume we can get the countries allied to us ANYWHERE in the world to act against their own intrest.

    Their is an old expression by a Rabbi that goes “If I am not for myself, who will be. If I do not speak for myself, no one will.”

    The Ron Paul argument has no basis in what the founders thought. The people who helped George Washington say “No entangling alliances” later crafted the Monroe Doctrine. The Founders did not want an interventionist policy when we would LOSE. and in the time of Washington and Adams (though Adams is a bit more complicated case) that is indeed what would have happened. After Jefferson into Madison and Monroe we had the ability to intervene and the men young in the teeth who helped General Washington draft policy DID exactlly that.

    If we leave the region we will be creating a situation like the late 19th and early 20th century balkan wars. Which will destroy the fuel of most of the global capital system. and right now the US, China, and Japan don’t need much to tip their countries into a bad place.

    It would be great to live in the world Ron Paul and his ilk thinks exists, but that aint so

  • http://www.larry-Bernard.blogspot.com Larry Bernard

    Crawford:

    You also forget the Modern middle east to the WEST of Iran was carved like the balkans was.

    and their are scatterings of Arabs, Turks, Kurds, and Persians in Multiple countries.

    Not to mention distributions of Shia and Sunni Arabs.

    Can the United States afford a war that engulfs Turkey (which we would be obligated to help if they were attacked first), Iran, Iraq, Syria, Afghanistan, Saudi Arabia, Pakistan, and Lebanon

  • UCrawford

    Larry,

    Overthrowing dictators should be considered only in situations where those dictators have attacked us and forced us into combat…not because it “serves our interests”. What you’re talking about isn’t self-defense, it’s conquest…no different from the Nazis or the Soviets or any authoritarian regime you care to name has done throughout history. Nobody who cares about and supports individual freedom should want any part of that and frankly it’s the complete opposite of the nation our Founding Fathers set up, so I consider your entire argument invalid and garbage.

    “It would be great to live in the world Ron Paul and his ilk thinks exists, but that aint so”

    Well, Larry, I’ve traveled around this world long enough and gained enough experience to realize that Ron Paul’s ideas can and will work if we support them and frankly I consider defeatism a philosophy for losers. Settle for a culture of slavery, stagnation and slow death if you want…I’ll stick with fighting for freedom and prosperity, thanks.

  • UCrawford

    “Can the United States afford a war that engulfs Turkey (which we would be obligated to help if they were attacked first), Iran, Iraq, Syria, Afghanistan, Saudi Arabia, Pakistan, and Lebanon”

    The Middle East and Islamic culture preceded the United States, they’ll survive just fine without our involvement. I don’t buy into apocalyptic millenarian arguments either…mainly because they’re all a bunch of bunk that never comes to pass.

  • http://www.larry-Bernard.blogspot.com Larry Bernard

    Forget them Crawford.

    Their are Shia Arabs in the regions that control most of the oil in Saudi Arabia and in Iran. They have tried to rebel, and have tried to rebel with some degree of violence. if we pull out completely their is a likelyhood they will sort it out in such a way that would cause major fuel disruptions which would tank the economy of China and Europe. Ever wonder what 20-30 Million Chinese who are Unemployed would do? a extremely violent nationalist government.. thats possible.

    Large scale economic depression in Europe with Riots against the Muslims who are the cause of the problems

    this could be a VERY bad war in which many many people in the world would die and the US economy would suffer for decades to come.

    We can’t waive a wand and pretend a system that has NEVER in human history existed can some how in a vacume come to exist and some how work. Thats beyond wishful thinking and bordering on Delusional Psychosis.

    like the notion of the gold standard ever being possible

  • Rob

    Five interesting points which are all based on false assumptions or actual false statements.

    ‘1) Obviously Iran cannot be allowed to acquire a nuclear weapon. An Iranian nuclear weapon would encourage the Arab states to develop their own bombs, disrupt the fragile military balance in the Middle East, and create a larger risk of nuclear terrorism through either giving the weapon to a terrorist organization like Hamas or Hezbollah and/or destabilization of the Iranian government.’

    Iran is a sovereign nation. There is no question of “allowing” her to develop a nuclear weapon. As long as she is a signatory of the NPT she cannot legally develop a nuclear weapon. But if she withdraws from the treaty, any effort to stop her would require a violation of International Law.

    If there ever was a ‘fragile military balance’ in the Middle East, it is clearly the U.S. that blew it completely apart with our invasion of Iraq. Iran’s position is enhanced by the destruction of Saddam Hussein’s army. That is a fact that we cannot reverse even by remaining in Iraq indefinitely.

    ‘2) Going to war with Iran is not the answer to Iran’s nuclear program. What should be tried is seven-party talks based on the Six-Party Talks that have been used with North Korea (and have been mostly successful). The United States, UK, France, Germany, Russia, the Arab League, and Iran should start having regular meetings to achieve a peaceful resolution to the Iranian nuclear situation.

    It is the U.S. that has refused to participate in multi-party talks with Iran, not the Iranians. But it is difficult to see what could come of them. The Iranians have already offered round-the-clock inspections of their nuclear sites and their enrichment program, a limitation on the number of centrifuges that they would be allowed to employ, inspection of their imports to prevent importation of enriched uranium, immediate conversion of all enriched uranium to reactor fuel rods, and a limit on the degree of enrichment to allow commercial grade enrichment (about 5%) but not weapons-grade (about 90%). All they ask is that they be allowed to enrich uranium to commercial grade under these tight inspections. More recently, they have even offered to allow the enrichment to be done by an international consortium. The U.S. has rejected all such compromises and has, instead, demanded a complete end to all Iranian enrichment whatsoever. The U.S. has never offered a carrot to complement the stick. It has always been “my way or the high way.” So what would these negotiators actually discuss?

    ‘3) At the end of the day, talk of an American attack on Iran is probably moot because the Israelis will probably strike if they think the Iranians are close to having the bomb. The Israeli nuclear weapons program exists for the same reason why the NATO countries maintained tactical nuclear weapons:* to make up for superior potential enemy conventional numbers. Like the Cold War where the Warsaw Pact outnumbered NATO forces conventionally, the Arab/Islamic states outnumber Israel conventionally. Justifiably, the Israelis will do whatever it takes to maintain this advantage.

    At the end of the day, the Israeli’s cannot very likely do much damage to the Iranian nuclear program without American assistance. They can’t even get there without overflying Iraqi airspace and they would need the necessary codes from the U.S. to prevent shot down by us. That’s without ever getting into the question of getting the permission of the Iraqi gov’t which surely wouldn’t be forthcoming. Their planes lack the range to return home without refueling. Missiles lack the necessary accuracy. The only point of an Israeli strike would be to draw an Iranian retaliation which would then give the U.S. a pretext for attacking Iran. All of this debate is exclusively about pretexts. It has nothing at all to do with enriching uranium, much less about an Iranian nuclear bomb.

    Israel’s conventional forces are superior to virtually every other Middle Eastern country so the analogy with NATO simply doesn’t hold. Iran has superior manpower but her air power doesn’t compare, and it’s doubtful she has the logistics to get those troops to Iran anyway. Turkey is pretty formidable, but her relations with Israel are friendly.

    (And btw, why do we automatically assume that Israel’s interests are necessarily a matter that we should go to any lengths to protect, much less go to war over?) What has Israel ever done for us?

    ‘4) The Iranians will be key in helping US forces withdraw from Iraq. They have a vested interest in a political solution, like all of Iraq’s neighbors, that will shore up the Iraqi central government and/or stabilize the violence enough so American forces can exit more rapidly. This is an opportunity to engage the Iranians on this issue and possibly open the door to eventual normalization of relations.’

    The Iranians have a good deal of influence over the present gov’t of Iraq. But that gov’t has been notably unsuccessful in suppressing the insurgency or in agreeing to negotiations. It is more questionable how much influence they can exert over al Sadr’s militia and certainly doubtful that they can exert much influence of the Sunnis.

    If the U.S. were to exit from Iraq, it would make an American attack on Iran LESS risky since American forces would likely come under attack from Shiite militia (and maybe Revolutionary Guards as well) if we bombed Iran. So the Iranians don’t have a very strong to help us exit Iraq.

    ‘5) Mahmoud Ahmadinejad is nothing more than a puppet of the Iranian Ayatollahs and should be seen and treated as such.’

    Far from being a puppet of the Ayatollahs, Ahmadinejad is a strong political rival to them. He is a former member of the Revolutionary Guard and has placed many of his former IRGC cronies in important positions within the Iraqi govt. The IRGC is under the authority of the Ayatollah Kameinei, not the president. But in a showdown Ahmadinejad might have more support there than anyone in Iran wants to admit.

    The recent replacement of Ali Larijani as Iranian nuclear negotiator may have been a big victory for Ahmadinejad. No one in the West really knows whats going on in Iran but Larijani was considered a moderate while the appointee is believed to be a hard-liner.

  • Rob

    Five interesting points which are all based on false assumptions or actual false statements.

    ‘1) Obviously Iran cannot be allowed to acquire a nuclear weapon. An Iranian nuclear weapon would encourage the Arab states to develop their own bombs, disrupt the fragile military balance in the Middle East, and create a larger risk of nuclear terrorism through either giving the weapon to a terrorist organization like Hamas or Hezbollah and/or destabilization of the Iranian government.’

    Iran is a sovereign nation. There is no question of “allowing” her to develop a nuclear weapon. As long as she is a signatory of the NPT she cannot legally develop a nuclear weapon. But if she withdraws from the treaty, any effort to stop her would require a violation of International Law.

    If there ever was a ‘fragile military balance’ in the Middle East, it is clearly the U.S. that blew it completely apart with our invasion of Iraq. Iran’s position is enhanced by the destruction of Saddam Hussein’s army. That is a fact that we cannot reverse even by remaining in Iraq indefinitely.

    ‘2) Going to war with Iran is not the answer to Iran’s nuclear program. What should be tried is seven-party talks based on the Six-Party Talks that have been used with North Korea (and have been mostly successful). The United States, UK, France, Germany, Russia, the Arab League, and Iran should start having regular meetings to achieve a peaceful resolution to the Iranian nuclear situation.

    It is the U.S. that has refused to participate in multi-party talks with Iran, not the Iranians. But it is difficult to see what could come of them. The Iranians have already offered round-the-clock inspections of their nuclear sites and their enrichment program, a limitation on the number of centrifuges that they would be allowed to employ, inspection of their imports to prevent importation of enriched uranium, immediate conversion of all enriched uranium to reactor fuel rods, and a limit on the degree of enrichment to allow commercial grade enrichment (about 5%) but not weapons-grade (about 90%). All they ask is that they be allowed to enrich uranium to commercial grade under these tight inspections. More recently, they have even offered to allow the enrichment to be done by an international consortium. The U.S. has rejected all such compromises and has, instead, demanded a complete end to all Iranian enrichment whatsoever. The U.S. has never offered a carrot to complement the stick. It has always been “my way or the high way.” So what would these negotiators actually discuss?

    ‘3) At the end of the day, talk of an American attack on Iran is probably moot because the Israelis will probably strike if they think the Iranians are close to having the bomb. The Israeli nuclear weapons program exists for the same reason why the NATO countries maintained tactical nuclear weapons:* to make up for superior potential enemy conventional numbers. Like the Cold War where the Warsaw Pact outnumbered NATO forces conventionally, the Arab/Islamic states outnumber Israel conventionally. Justifiably, the Israelis will do whatever it takes to maintain this advantage.

    At the end of the day, the Israeli’s cannot very likely do much damage to the Iranian nuclear program without American assistance. They can’t even get there without overflying Iraqi airspace and they would need the necessary codes from the U.S. to prevent shot down by us. That’s without ever getting into the question of getting the permission of the Iraqi gov’t which surely wouldn’t be forthcoming. Their planes lack the range to return home without refueling. Missiles lack the necessary accuracy. The only point of an Israeli strike would be to draw an Iranian retaliation which would then give the U.S. a pretext for attacking Iran. All of this debate is exclusively about pretexts. It has nothing at all to do with enriching uranium, much less about an Iranian nuclear bomb.

    Israel’s conventional forces are superior to virtually every other Middle Eastern country so the analogy with NATO simply doesn’t hold. Iran has superior manpower but her air power doesn’t compare, and it’s doubtful she has the logistics to get those troops to Israel anyway. Turkey is pretty formidable, but her relations with Israel are friendly.

    (And btw, why do we automatically assume that Israel’s interests are necessarily a matter that we should go to any lengths to protect, much less go to war over?) What has Israel ever done for us?

    ‘4) The Iranians will be key in helping US forces withdraw from Iraq. They have a vested interest in a political solution, like all of Iraq’s neighbors, that will shore up the Iraqi central government and/or stabilize the violence enough so American forces can exit more rapidly. This is an opportunity to engage the Iranians on this issue and possibly open the door to eventual normalization of relations.’

    The Iranians have a good deal of influence over the present gov’t of Iraq. But that gov’t has been notably unsuccessful in suppressing the insurgency or in agreeing to negotiations. It is more questionable how much influence they can exert over al Sadr’s militia and certainly doubtful that they can exert much influence of the Sunnis.

    If the U.S. were to exit from Iraq, it would make an American attack on Iran LESS risky since American forces would likely come under attack from Shiite militia (and maybe Revolutionary Guards as well) if we bombed Iran. So the Iranians don’t have a very strong motive to help us exit Iraq.

    ‘5) Mahmoud Ahmadinejad is nothing more than a puppet of the Iranian Ayatollahs and should be seen and treated as such.’

    Far from being a puppet of the Ayatollahs, Ahmadinejad is a strong political rival to them. He is a former member of the Revolutionary Guard and has placed many of his former IRGC cronies in important positions within the Iraqi govt. The IRGC is under the authority of the Ayatollah Kameinei, not the president. But in a showdown Ahmadinejad might have more support there than anyone in Iran wants to admit.

    The recent replacement of Ali Larijani as Iranian nuclear negotiator may have been a big victory for Ahmadinejad. No one in the West really knows whats going on in Iran but Larijani was considered a moderate while the appointee is believed to be a hard-liner.

  • UCrawford

    Rob,

    Valid points, but the only one I dispute is the fifth about Ahmadinejad. He may wish to become a rival to Khameini, but the president is powerless without support from the Majles, and the clerics still have authority to remove any candidates they choose from the parliamentary elections, thereby destroying Ahmadinejad’s power base. That’s how they brushed Khatami aside when his proposed reforms got to be too much for them to put up with. Ahmadinejad may eventually find a way to overcome that, but the odds are clearly against him doing so. Right now, however, his position is secure because his histrionics serve as a useful tool for the clerics, but his true power is very limited and at this point they could cut him off at the knees if they so desired.

  • http://republicanrenaissance.blogspot.com David M

    What is the fragile balance you believe should be preserved?

    Arab/Islamic conventional superiority countered by Israeli nuclear superiority. Of course, as part of any final peace with the Arab world and the Iranians, the Israelis would have to give up their nukes as well.
    You speak of the Arab world as if it’s a monolith. The Gulf States are as much aligned against Iran as the Israelis are. Military spending in Saudi Arabia alone is 4-5 times that of Iran. Iran’s conventional capabilities are very modest.Their making a nuke in several years won’t change the dynamic much, in my opinion.

  • Rob

    ‘the president is powerless without support from the Majles, and the clerics still have authority to remove any candidates they choose from the parliamentary elections,’

    I didn’t claim that Ahmadinejad was all-powerful. I claimed that he is not a puppet. In Iran today, he has less formal power than either the Ayatollah or Rafsanjani. But, while the Revolutionary Guard is formally answerable to the Ayatollah, we know that Amadinejad has important allies in that institution as well. The word is that it was IRGC units loyal to Amadinejad that captured the British sailors a while back and that the Ayatollah was furious and demanded a quick settlement of the issue.

    There is a power struggle going on in Iran and Amadinejad is not without resources in that struggle. I don’t think he is any more a “puppet” of the mullahs than the Likud Party is a puppet of Ehud Olmert’s.

  • LBest

    Iran is provoking the US with its talk and it is being inspected but guess what the inspectors cannot get full access. When a country is run by radicals that are hell bent to destroy the US all your logical statments are foolish because they(Iranian leaders) are not logical in mindset. You can talk all you want about morals but in the end it comes down to not allowing nuts in power to obtain a weapon of this power. The US is were I live now and I do not want it destroyed by nuts because I dont believe in Islam. I have lived and worked in the middle east for 5 years and I can tell you first hand the radicals do not think about the ideals all of you are talking about and they would die for their beliefs not just talk about them on a blog, so quit with the logical mindset and welcome to the middle east. All of you are looking at this from your own geographic vantagepoint and not from that of a radical that was never brought up with your ideas of right and wrong. We will not get anywere talking and I know this because I saw it first hand on the streets with the way they dealt with eachother on disagreements i.e. force wins and in discussions with different middle easterner on their worldviews. I am not saying I dont agree with most of the statments made by UCrawford but I can tell you from my time abroad they are just is not workable.

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